Features | Concerts

Big K.R.I.T. / Freddie Gibbs

By Clayton Purdom | 5 May 2011

Strange thing: in a night where Freddie Gibbs’ set was drawn to a frenzied pitch, and Young Jeezy strode out like the thug-rap prince of the universe, entourage stretching to infinity, to proclaim that the newly minted and medallioned Gibbs would be signing to his CTE imprint on Def Jam, when the show finally spilled onto the streets at 3 AM the name on peoples’ lips wasn’t exactly Gibbs, and wasn’t really Jeezy. It wasn’t the surprisingly delirious stage-turns from Jackie Chain, Mookie Brown, or Big Sant, either. It was the man who took the stage after them all: this weird, earnest, 24-year-old phenom we rap fans have in Big K.R.I.T.

First, though: Gibbs’ alignment with Jeezy is heartening, if a bit strange. The kid made his name through a rejection of the label process, of the bureaucracy that sees great emceeing mired in promo-cycle bullshit. And Jeezy, if you remember, has still not released a proper successor to his 2008 triumph The Recession. What will Gibbs mean to this imprint, alongside also-rans like JW and SCREWWW? Well, hopefully, a burst of relevance. The best- and worst-case scenario is sort of borne out in new single “Stripes,” wherein Gibbs sounds wholly at home spinning hard-knock drug-ferrying tales and Jeezy just sorta phones in the rest. Gibbs’ hard-knock Pac-inspired flow’s got commercial appeal for miles, if the public allows it. But the kid from Gary may also have just signed himself into a career of rapping on Jeezy B-sides.

In his ascension to major-label verite, Gibbs mirrors K.R.I.T., who Def Jam tabbed in a gamble after hearing last year’s startlingly likable Krit Wuz Here mixtape. His follow-up is, as Killa Col has elucidated, a record of startling warmth and clarity, nodding at Kast as directly and profoundly as, like, Springsteen nodded at Dylan. The connections are tenuous but direct and unabashed; Kast, for example, rarely indulged in drops like K.R.I.T.‘s “Sookie Now” does. The shared skill is mostly with sleepy hooks—“Rotation,” “My Sub,” “Country Shit,” all tracks that shined in Chicago. The thoroughly exhausted club thumped in unison on into the show’s fourth hour.

Most impressive, though, is that while Gibbs is being appended to Jeezy’s pre-existing style—which could pan out fascinatingly, or not—K.R.I.T.‘s new record sounds like his first one, only better. The production sparkles, and the David Banner and Ludacris guest spots, despite being a decade too late to be relevant, drop seismically. This is because K.R.I.T.‘s got an old heart, a rap fan’s heart. Like Kanye knew where to slot GLC and Consequence, I think this kid’s humble eye is on nothing less (or more) than the full resurrection of the Southern Rap Album. Whether he achieves it or not is up in the air, but his efforts have already netted us a new champ of live hip-hop.